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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Australian Open Day 3 Tennis Picks 2018 (January 17th)

One of the outright picks I made at the beginning of the tournament have exited ahead of the start of the Second Round, but the others have made progress.

That has been the one positive of the tournament so far after a rough second day when very little went the way I would have liked.

A couple of selections had their chances to cover, but missed break point chances at key points to prevent that happening, while I soon regretted picking Heather Watson who once again exited a Grand Slam in the early Rounds when set as the favourite to progress.

It's still only Day 3 we are heading into so there is plenty of time to get this tournament back on track, but it would be nice to have a little more luck on my side. I also hope to make better decisions in the days ahead.

Gilles Muller - 6.5 games v Malek Jaziri: The one issue with a number as high as this is you do need to produce at least three breaks of serve to have a chance to cover. And that is assuming you are going to look after your own serve for the most part.

When a player is a limited returner like Gilles Muller it does raise some alarm bells for a number like this, but he was in good form in the First Round when knocking out Federico Delbonis, even if the hard courts are not the favoured surface for Delbonis.

The Delbonis serve is still a bigger weapon than the Malek Jaziri delivery and so I do expect Muller to have his chances in this one. Jaziri also had to come through a five set match in the First Round which finished late on Monday evening and this is after a tough opening to the 2018 season where the three completed sets Jaziri has played has resulted in just eight games won.

It will have to be a huge serving day from Jaziri to get close to the upset but his delivery is one that players do have a chance to attack and the lack of consistency from the baseline makes it tough for Jaziri to do enough defending. He is also facing an opponent in Muller who will come to the net and put away volleys if Jaziri is just trying to chip the ball back into play when defending and it is a match where I would expect Muller to have at least one break per set played.

In all honesty I am expecting Muller to be far too strong for Jaziri who has to be feeling a bit of fatigue. The Muller serve should keep the mental pressure on Jaziri in this one and that should eventually lead to a fairly straight-forward win for the lefty in this one. Their two previous matches have been won comfortably by Muller and I am going to look for him to do the same here with around four breaks secured to cover the number.

Denis Shapovalov-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over 39.5 games: These two players met only a few months ago at the US Open and it was the youngster Denis Shapovalov who got the better of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Second Round at the last Grand Slam of the 2017 season.

The one big surprise on the day was the Shapovalov was able to see off Tsonga in straight sets and he was a dominant winner in the First Round here. However Tsonga also played very well in seeing off Qualifier Kevin King and I am fully anticipating this match needing at least four sets to be decided.

Both players have potent serves which they back up with heavy groundstrokes, although it does feel like Shapovalov has a little more confidence from the backhand wing. His movement is also superior to Tsonga's around the court and so I am leaning towards the younger man being able to make his way through to another Third Round of a Grand Slam.

The serves will be the dominant weapons on display though and I would not be surprised at all to see a couple of tiebreakers needed to separate the players. I do think Tsonga will have learnt from the way the match with Shapovalov developed when they met at the US Open so it would be a big shock if he is blown away in three sets again, while I also think the Canadian is playing with a lot of confidence and belief to think he wins at least one set himself.

This is a lot of games and won't be covered if the match does finish in straight sets to either man. However I think we are going to see at least four tight sets in this one and so backing the two players to get together and cover the total games is the way to go.

Marin Cilic - 7.5 games v Joao Sousa: There is nothing wrong with the competitive spirit that burns inside of Joao Sousa and that has helped him get as much out of his career as he would have hoped for. However there is a time when he meets the very best players on the Tour where you can see the limitations in his game and that should be the case when he faces Marin Cilic in the Second Round.

Sousa had to spend a little more time on the court than he would have liked in his First Round win over Dustin Brown having needed to win a decider despite going 2-0 up in sets. That could potentially be a problem for him, but the bigger one will be the power that will be facing Sousa on the other side of the net.

It was a relatively comfortable First Round win for Marin Cilic who beat Vasek Pospisil in four sets and you have to say the conditions in Melbourne should suit his game. A lack of consistency can be an issue for Cilic and you can get a feel for how his matches will develop fairly early on, but this is the kind of opponent that the Croatian would be expecting to win.

He has crushed Sousa in all three previous matches and the aggressive returns should pay dividends when facing the Sousa second serve. Cilic will look to get on the front foot in the rallies and the power should be able to hit through the court even against someone with solid defensive skills like the ones Sousa will be bringing onto the court.

I do think Cilic will have considerable success on the return which will give him a chance to cover this number of games. It would be expected that Cilic is able to win this one in straight sets and I would imagine he is able to secure one of those sets with a couple of breaks of serve and that should put Cilic in a position to cover in this one as he moves through to the Third Round.

Nick Kyrgios - 7.5 games v Victor Troicki: Two erratic and emotional players meet in the Second Round at the Australian Open and it is hard to always know what you are going to get out of Nick Kyrgios and Victor Troicki on any given day.

Much of this match is going to be on the racquet of Kyrgios though and he has been speaking very maturely about what he wants to achieve in tennis. However the Australian has all the potential in the world to become one of the top men's players, but seems to change his mind about how much he desires that position on a day to day basis.

That makes it tough to always know what you are going to get out of Kyrgios, but winning the title in Brisbane is a huge boost in confidence for a player in an open Quarter of the draw. He was a dominant winner in the First Round compared with Troicki who had to come from 2-0 down in sets and also a break down in the deciding set before beating another Australian Alex Bolt.

Bolt is not at the same level as Kyrgios, but Troicki is a player that can produce a big serving day which will frustrate his opponent and could lead to a much closer match than anticipated. The problem for Troicki is that he has been in poor form to end the 2017 season and open the 2018 season and I can see the Serbian perhaps falling away in this one if Kyrgios is bringing his 'A' game to the court.

It is difficult to know if that will be the case with Kyrgios, but he looks to be more focused than I have seen for some time and I think the Brisbane title win will have helped the confidence. He destroyed Troicki when these two met in Cincinnati last August, and the conditions in Melbourne do give Kyrgios the chance to dictate behind his big serve and keep the mental pressure on an opponent who can throw in some sloppy service games.

That may be enough for Kyrgios to find his way to a straight sets win and by a margin to cover what looks a big number of games on first look.

Elina Svitolina - 5.5 games v Katerina Siniakova: The current favourite to win the Australian Open is Elina Svitolina and she has been in very strong form to open 2018 which suggests she can go deep into the women's draw. An easy win in the First Round will only have raised the expectation around Svitolina, but she will be the first to admit that the competition will get much tougher going forward.

The serve is one of the weapons that Svitolina has to find more consistency from- when it is working she is very tough to beat, but there are times when she is not backing it up as she should and that does give opponents a chance.

However I am not sure Katerina Siniakova has enough about her all around game to get enough success out of Svitolina. She had to come through a tough First Rounder, but Siniakova will have plenty of respect commanded having already beaten someone like Maria Sharapova in 2018, although there are times when she can be blown off the court.

A lot of hard work will be used to move around the court and try and put Svitolina in some difficult positions, but it has to be noted that when Siniakova loses she does tend to lose by big margins. One of those heavy losses came at the hands of Svitolina at the US Open despite Sianiakova stealing the second set when they met in August 2017, but that is a reason I want to take Svitolina to cover this number.

Even it this does go three sets, I do think Svitolina has the match on her racquet and can pump out enough positive service games to move into a position to win the match. She should also have plenty of chances to break the Siniakova serve and I think those two factors will end up seeing Svitolina avoid the upset and move into the Third Round with a strong win on the board.

Belinda Bencic - 4.5 games v Luksika Kumkhum: There have been some high hopes that Belinda Bencic can get back to her best after injury hit 2017 coming off the back of a disappointing 2016. Form ahead of the Australian Open had been very good with a superb showing at the Hopman Cup and Bencic's win over Venus Williams dominated the headlines in the First Round.

Backing up big wins can be difficult for players who are not used to that position, but I do feel that Bencic feels she should be winning big matches. That will help her get back to a level place emotionally which will be important when she takes on Luksika Kumkhum in the Second Round.

Kumkhum has to be respected after coming through the Qualifiers and winning a Round in the main draw to get to this point. However the majority of her time is spent below the main WTA Tour level and there should be a difference in what the players can produce in crunch time in this match.

There will be plenty of big hitting coming from the Kumkhum side of the court and that can be dangerous for Bencic if she is not able to produce the same quality she did against Venus Williams in the First Round.

I am of the mind that she can and Bencic should be a little too good for Kumkhum in this match. While it is a fairly big number, Bencic is more than capable of playing the strong return game to cover and I think she will be able to do that.

Kaia Kanepi - 3.5 games v Monica Puig: If you like big hitting tennis where players are going to try and hit winners behind booming serves, then this Second Round match could be the one for you. Both Kaia Kanepi and Monica Puig are very much players who want to get on the front foot and dominate rallies and I would be surprised to see too many rallies played.

You have to like what Kanepi has been able to as she has bounced back from injury and put in some tremendous performances to get her World Ranking back up inside the top 100. At 32 years old it is hard to understand how difficult it is to do what Kanepi has been able to and she is going to be a tough out for anyone in the women's draw this week.

Kanepi Qualified and then reached the Quarter Final at the US Open back in September, and she had another strong run in Brisbane in preparation for the Australian Open. She crushed Dominika Cibulkova for the loss of just four games in the First Round which is an impressive performance against a former Australian Open Finalist.

I do lean towards Kanepi here despite Monica Puig's display of character to come from match points down to beat Sam Stosur in the First Round. However Puig is an inconsistent player who will go for her shots and that tends to work less than she would like and early defeats in preparation tournaments over the last couple of weeks doesn't bode well for her in this match.

Out of the two players I give the Estonian the edge when it comes to the quality of the return of serve and I do think that makes the difference in the match. I would expect Kanepi to be in a dominant position on her own serve more often than not, but I think Puig may find herself defending on her serve at time to time too.

That could see Kanepi win in straight sets with a break more in each set and I will look for her to cover here.

Julia Goerges - 4.5 games v Alize Cornet: One of the most in form players in the women's draw coming into the Australian Open is Julia Goerges and she was a comfortable winner in the First Round. The German has won three straight titles in Moscow, the WTA Elite Finals and in Auckland and Goerges is making big moves up the World Ranking.

She will be feeling a lot of confidence going into the Second Round where Goerges takes on Alize Cornet, a player she has beaten all five times. In that time it is Goerges who leads 10-1 in sets played and the current performances of the two players means it would be a surprise if it isn't the German making it through to the Third Round.

Cornet can be a tough player to beat if she is defending as well as she can and that may frustrate Goerges, although I also think the serve is one that can be attacked. While winning her First Round match fairly comfortably, Cornet has not been in great form in the tournaments preparing for this Grand Slam and I think it would be a big upset if she is able to knock off Goerges.

The conditions should allow Goerges to hit through Cornet and she should also have a significant edge when it comes to the serve and number of break point chances being created. The Cornet performances in the hard court Grand Slam tournaments over the last couple of years have also been disappointing and I do think this match will be dominated by Goerges.

It is a big number of games to cover in a best of three set match, but I think Goerges is going to break serve three or four times over the course of this match. That should be enough to earn a cover of this number of games and keep the momentum rolling behind a player who will believe she is capable of going all the way in this Grand Slam.

MY PICKS: Gilles Muller - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Denis Shapovalov-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Over 39.5 Total Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Nick Kyrgios - 7.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units) 
Belinda Bencic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kaia Kanepi - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Julia Goerges - 4.5 Games @ 1.72 William Hill (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 8-10, - 4.76 Units (36 Units Staked, - 13.22% Yield)

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